On December 11, 1998, Jack Buchanan
became the newest owner of the fledgling Big Daddy Baseball League.
He replaced Dave Ernst, who joined along with his brother Eric, but
resigned shortly thereafter due to conflicts with the live draft dates.
Buchanan called his franchise the "Virginia Cavaliers," chose
Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium for his home ballpark model, and drew the seventh
pick in the inaugural draft.
On December 19th, Buchanan made his
selection: shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. At the time, Garciaparra
was considered to be a steady, MVP-caliber player, and one of the
American League's "Holy Trinity" of Hall-of-Fame-bound shortstops.
Buchanan, a Red Sox fan, had Garciaparra ranked #2 on his draft board,
and was therefore ecstatic to select him at #7.
Buchanan continued to take an
offense-first approach in the draft, and selected hitters (Ray Lankford,
Todd Walker, Matt Lawton, Rusty Greer and J.D. Drew) with his next five
picks. All were not only talented, but young enough to have
considerable upside as well. Drew, the #1 prospect in baseball in
1999 (according to Baseball America), was somewhat of a surprise
pick, given that his 6th round selection gave him a $3 million salary.
Buchanan finally signed his first
pitcher in Round 7, selecting 33-year-old Todd Stottlemyre.
Through the remainder of the draft, he continued to fill his roster with
young players with perceived upside such as Sean Casey, Dennys Reyes,
Russell Branyan, Keith Foulke, Roy Halladay and Trot Nixon. And in
the farm draft, Buchanan stuck with the Red Sox organization, drafting
three Sox prospects (John Curtice, Juan Pena and Cole Liniak) along with
#1 pick Marcus Giles, but passed on the opportunity to draft a fifth
The Cavaliers got off to an 11-14 start
in Chapter One, yet that was good enough to compete in the Higuera
Division, as they were tied for second-place, only two games behind the
Southern Cal Slyme. The team went just 12-18 in Chapter Two,
however, and fell into last place -- seven games behind in the division.
Oddly enough, throughout the first 11
weeks of the season, not one trade was made in the BDBL. When
Virginia's fortunes continued to nosedive in the second chapter,
Buchanan was the first to dip his toes in the water. And he found
a willing trading partner in Salem Cowtippers GM Mike Glander.
Virginia's second round pick, Ray
Lankford, was enjoying an MVP-caliber season for the Cavaliers, hitting
.370/.470/.745 with 21 doubles and 19 home runs in just 55 games.
But he had missed most of the MLB season with an injury up to that
point, and had just 9 plate appearances at the end of April.
Glander inquired about Lankford and Stottlemyre, and Buchanan made him
an offer he couldn't refuse. On April 22nd, the first-ever BDBL
trade was consummated. And just seconds later, the first-ever BDBL trade
controversy was born.
In exchange for both Lankford and
Stottlemyre, Buchanan requested and received utility outfielder Chad
Curtis and five of Salem's 2000 draft picks. A wave of
protests immediately erupted, as most rival owners felt that Virginia
had received too little for an MVP candidate and a workhorse starting
pitcher. Several owners challenged Glander to invoke Rule 9.3,
which gave the commissioner the authority to override any unfair trade.
Taking the league's protests into
consideration, Glander notified Buchanan that he would be
reworking the trade to include prospects Ryan Bradley and Butch Henry from the Cowtippers' side of the trade. Buchanan agreed, but
this, too, was met with howls of protest. Finally, Glander agreed to send Lankford back to Virginia in exchange for Curtis.
In the end, Virginia ended up with two prospects and five draft picks in
exchange for Stottlemyre.
Because the 2000 draft pool would consist
only of those players who were not worthy of a one-year contract, it was
generally felt that any draft picks acquired for the 2000 draft would be
virtually worthless. However, Buchanan continued to stockpile
these picks throughout the 1999 season. At the end of July,
Buchanan traded Mike Stanley in exchange for an 8th round pick -- a pick
that the Cavaliers could only use if they selected four $3 million
players (a highly unlikely event, given the talent pool.)
Buchanan continued to strip his team
throughout the season, trading Greer in Chapter Four (for Rickey
Henderson and prospect Chad Hutchinson), and Lankford and Walker in
Chapter Five (for Pokey Reese, Ed Sprague, Adam Kennedy and two more
draft picks.) Not coincidentally, the Cavaliers continued their
freefall, going just 29-51 (a .363 winning percentage) in the second
half to finish the season with a record of 62-98.
On November 21st, Buchanan resigned
from the BDBL with the following e-mail:
After giving it some thought, I have decided to resign from the BDBL.
The reasons are listed below for whatever its worth. As commissioner
of another fantasy league, I commend you for the amount of time you
put into this league. Were it not for your energy, I may have quit
1- Dissatisfaction with Diamond Mind Baseball
2- Too much time required to research down to High School Baseball
3- Inability to hold a core group of players together long-term due
to the cap system
4- Competing time requirements
I apologize for leaving, but better now than when the draft is
closer. Whomever takes over the team should at least, thanks to my
trades, be able to shape the team in his own image.
Take care, and thanks again for all your volunteered time. I will
still check the site periodically to see your Commish column...
Eight days later, Scott Zook was
introduced to the league. Zook, a 28-year-old casino dealer from
Kansas City, Missouri, proved to be a welcome addition to the league due
to his outspoken nature on the league's forum and his connections to
other members in the league. He joined the league along with two
other new owners, Chris Luhning and Steve Babula -- each members of a
DMB league called the ISBL. And he was also a former roommate of
BDBL owner Chris Kamler.
After renaming his franchise the
"Phoenix Predators," and moving them into a new ballpark, modeled after
Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium, Zook began to put his own personal stamp on
his team. He began by trading the franchise's signature player,
Garciaparra, to the Chicago Black Sox in exchange for Miguel Tejada and
Michael Barrett. While Tejada wasn't a part of the "Trinity," he
was considered to be just outside of that group. With a salary of
only $3 million, he was considerably less expensive than Garciaparra,
Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. And at only 24 years old, he had
significant upside as well. He would hit .257/.324/.444 in his
first full BDBL season with the Predators -- the first of a four-year
Barrett was a $1 million "bonus baby"
in the inaugural draft. He would hit .268/.304/.411 in his rookie
season with the Predators in 2000, at the tender age of 23. But he
would eventually be traded back to Chicago before the 2001 season, and
wouldn't become a star until the 2003 season.
Zook also unloaded inning-eater Jon
Lieber in exchange for closer Troy Percival, and offloaded one of the
many draft picks Buchanan had secured, receiving Chan Ho Park in
exchange. Pedro Astacio -- a 19th-round draft pick by Buchanan in
1999 -- blossomed into an ace in 2000, going 18-6 with a 3.45 ERA in 227
innings, and finishing second in the EL Cy Young award balloting.
In fact, Astacio alone is credited with playing a huge role in the
reversal of fortune of the 2000 team.
The 2000 draft pool was as thin as advertised. Out
of all the draft picks Buchanan had stockpiled in 1999, only one --
Salem's 7th round pick -- was ever actually used by any team. Aside from that one pick (used to
select pinch hitter Brian Simmons), Zook made nine other picks in the
major league portion of the draft -- none of whom ever made much of an
impact on the franchise. But it was Zook's first pick in the farm
draft -- the #4 pick overall -- that turned out to be the steal of the
draft. After the selections of Luis Rivas, Dannys Baez and Andy
Pratt, Zook took a chance on a pitcher who had yet to throw a single
professional pitch -- a pitcher by the name of Barry Zito. Just
one year later, Zito would make his rookie debut for the Predators,
going 4-4 with a 4.19 ERA in 73 innings. The following year, he
struck out 199 batters in 208 innings and posted a 4.20 ERA as a
24-year-old. And for the next several seasons, he would be among
the biggest bargains in the league.
Heading into Opening Day, 2000, the
Predators featured a very strong bullpen, led by the league's best
reliever, Foulke (6-6, 2.01 CERA in 110 IP, with a 19/132 BB/K ratio for
Phoenix in 2000.) The starting rotation and lineup, however, were
considered below average, and because of that, Phoenix was picked to
finish in 3rd place in the pre-season preview. However, with a
core of young superstars such as Barrett, Nixon, Tejada, Drew, Adam
Kennedy and Halladay, the Predators were considered to be set up very
nicely for the future.
The team slumped out of the gate with
an 11-13 record in Chapter One, but trailed the first-place Boise
Bastards by only three games. In a conversation with "Biggest Daddy" at
the end of April that year, Zook expressed an unwillingness to trade any
of his young players for an instant fix:
BD: Your division in
the Eck League is close, a real dog fight. Are you going to
make any deals to strengthen your squad for remainder of the
SZ: Making a move is not
unrealistic but not likely. I like the direction that I'm
headed and I'm not going to destroy the core of what I have
to make a half-hearted run. If I think that we have a
legitimate shot at winning the division and the playoffs,
however, and can bring in someone to push us over the top, I
Despite that assertion, however, Zook
made a deal with division rival Kansas shortly before the Chapter Two
deadline where he traded several of the team's top young prospects,
including Drew, Halladay, Braden Looper and Antonio Alfonseca.
In exchange, he received impact hitter Raul Mondesi along with several
young prospects: Carl Pavano, Rob Bell and Wayne Gomes.
At the time, Zook called Bell a "future
staff ace," and suggested that with Bell, Zito, Chad Hutchinson, Chris
George, Juan Pena and Ben Christensen, the Predators had the makings of
a future all-ace starting rotation. Unfortunately for Zook, only
one pitcher (Zito) from that group made any impact in the BDBL
whatsoever. In fact, the five other pitchers in that group totaled
just 288 BDBL innings in their careers (279.2 of those from Bell), with
a combined ERA of 6.12.
Also unfortunate for Zook was Mondesi's
injury-plagued MLB season in 2000, which gave him only 251 at-bats at a
$6 million salary in 2001. Mondesi enjoyed a fine season in 2000,
however, batting .260/.359/.456 for the Predators down the stretch.
At the end of two chapters, the
Predators were still just four games behind, yet still appeared in last
place in the division. By the all-star break, that deficit had
grown to six games, as the Predators owned a third-place record of
When the final trading deadline of the
season rolled around, the Predators were in a tie for second place in
the division -- eight games behind the Slyme with a record of 51-52, but
just three games out of the wild card race. Looking to
make one final push into the post-season, Zook
traded one of his highly-regarded pitching prospects, Pavano, to the
South Carolina Sea Cats. In exchange, he received ace starters
Freddy Garcia and Dustin Hermanson. Garcia went 4-3 with a 3.48
ERA for the Predators over the final two chapters, while Hermanson went
6-1 with a 3.45 ERA. Not only did Pavano never quite pan out as a
pitcher, but Garcia far surpassed him in terms of BDBL value. He
went 16-7 with a 3.09 ERA in 215+ innings for Phoenix in 2002 (at a
salary of only $1.1 million) and won a total of 43 games in three and a
half seasons with the franchise.
With eight days remaining in the 2000
season, the Predators trailed the division-leading Slyme by
just one game, and were tied with the Cleveland Rocks atop the EL wild
card standings. The Predators had already wrapped up their season
with a record of 84-76, and could do nothing but wait for the Slyme to
decide their fate. With the Kansas Law Dogs and Queensboro Kings
also in the mix, there existed a possibility that four teams could
finish the season with identical records.
The Slyme eventually finished with 86
wins -- two more than Phoenix -- to capture their second straight
division title. Meanwhile, the Law Dogs finished with 83 wins --
just a game behind the Predators -- and the Kings finished with 82 wins.
Cleveland finished with an identical record, so for the second time in league history, a one-game playoff was
needed to decide the final spot in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, no box score, news item
or game summary from that
game exists, so we know nothing about what happened in that game other than the fact that the Predators ultimately won.
In Phoenix's first appearance in the
post-season, they drew an opponent who had dominated the league
throughout the season. The Chicago Black Sox finished the season
with a record of 106-54 -- tops in the BDBL. They led the BDBL
with 987 runs scored and 244 home runs, and hit an astounding
.285/.364/.492 as a team. They also led the Eck League with a 4.12
team ERA. Six players in their starting lineup hit 25 or more home
runs, and leadoff hitter Roger Cedeno hit .351 on the season with 81
stolen bases and a .420 on-base percentage.
Chicago scored five runs in the fifth
inning of Game One, and walked away with a 9-2 laugher in the series
opener. In Game Two, Cal Ripken hit a grand slam home run in the
third inning, and the Black Sox ran away with another decisive win.
When the series shifted to Phoenix in Game Three, Phoenix starter Kevin Appier
(7-15 with a 5.98 ERA during the regular season) held the powerful Black
Sox lineup scoreless through eight innings before allowing a pair of
runs in the ninth, giving the Predators their first win of the series.
But in a best-of-five series, the Black
Sox needed just one win in the next two games to clinch the series
victory. They got that win in Game Four, when they busted open a
4-2 game by scoring four runs in the top of the ninth off of Phoenix
closer Troy Percival. The Predators went down fighting, scoring
two runs in the bottom of the ninth, but it wasn't enough.
After taking his team from last place
to the playoffs in just one year, Zook turned his attention to his 2001
team. Heading into that winter, the Predators' starting rotation
took a big hit as every member of the rotation suffered an off year.
With Zito only providing 93 MLB innings due to injury, Phoenix was looking at a
rotation of Park, Astacio, Garcia and four pitchers with MLB ERA's well
Zook made four trades that winter,
acquiring players with youth and upside in Bill Mueller, Jack Cust,
Dmitri Young and John Patterson, while sacrificing starters Park and
Astacio in the process.
In the free agent draft, Zook filled
the few remaining holes on his roster with youthful players such as Sandy Alomar, Jr., Brady Anderson, Brett Tomko, Jeremy Giambi,
Aramis Ramirez, Orlando Cabrera and Roy Halladay.
With a pitching staff decimated by
off-years and trades, and a starting lineup filled with below-average
hitters, the Predators were picked to finish in third place in the
Higuera Division. After a horrendous 10-18 start to the season,
Zook wasted no time throwing in the towel. Just two weeks into the
season, he made his first major trade of the year by dealing closer
Keith Foulke to the Salem Cowtippers in exchange for Jeff Zimmerman and
hot young pitching prospect Chin-Hui Tsao.
"The Predators now have a completely
solid nucleus of young pitchers," crowed Zook, "who are either in their
option years or are a season or two away -- including Barry Zito, Robbie
Bell, Ben Christensen and Chin-Hui Tsao." Incredibly, though, of
the pitchers named by Zook at that time, only Zito managed to
pitch more than 278 innings in the BDBL (all 278 belonging to Bell.)
After an 11-15 Chapter Two, Zook stepped up
the trade table once again, sending his budding young superstar Tejada to the division rival Kansas Law Dogs in exchange for another
budding young superstar, Carlos Beltran. With another young
shortstop, Orlando Cabrera, filling the role of "shortstop of the
future" for the Phoenix franchise, Zook felt that Tejada was expendable.
Although Cabrera didn't come close to Tejada's production over the next
several years, Beltran soon became a valuable run-producer. Over
the next two seasons, Beltran created 211.7 runs at just $7 million in
salary, while Tejada created 221.3 at $11 million. Both players
became free agents after the 2003 season.
That would be the final transaction of
the year for Zook, as he spent the next eight months simply playing out
the string. The Predators finished with a record of 54-106 -- good
for third place in the Higuera Division.
Heading into the winter of 2002,
Phoenix held the #2 overall pick in the draft, thanks to their
second-worst finish in 2001. Rather than use that pick himself,
Zook floated the notion of trading the pick, to see if he could get more
bang for his buck. He found a taker in Salem Cowtippers GM Mike
Glander, who traded Bobby Abreu and Jeremy Giambi in exchange for the
pick. Abreu hit .296/.391/.549 for Phoenix in 2002, with 54
doubles, 33 home runs, 141 runs scored and 28 stolen bases, proving to
be worth every penny of his $7 million salary.
Next, Zook swapped his second-round
draft pick along with Trot Nixon to the Stamford Zoots in exchange for
Phil Nevin and prospect Wascar Serrano. Although Serrano never
pitched an inning in the BDBL, Nevin hit .342/.412/.647 with 40 doubles, 47
homers and 142 RBIs for Phoenix in 2002 in his final year under
contract. His 161 runs created that season represents a
single-season franchise record over the league's first ten years.
That same winter, Zook agreed to a
five-player blockbuster trade with the Chicago Black Sox, where he
agreed to send young sluggers Raul Mondesi and Aramis Ramirez to Chicago
in exchange for three young hitters: Pat Burrell, Roger Cedeno and
Michael Barrett. Although Mondesi (.259/.345/.514 w/ 36 HR and 110
RBIs) and Ramirez (.298/.334/.533, 49 2B, 34 HR, 144 RBIs) would enjoy
monster seasons for Chicago, it would be a couple of years before
Burrell, Cedeno and Barrett would make any sort of impact in the BDBL.
Zook also acquired young hurler Andy
Pettitte that winter, in a deal that cost him only Jeff Suppan, Cedeno
and a second-round farm pick. Pettitte (13-11, 4.25 ERA in 207+
IP) played an integral role in the Phoenix rotation in 2002, along with
Zito (13-12, 4.20 ERA in 208 IP), Kevin Appier (15-8, 3.71 ERA in 198+
IP) and Freddy Garcia (16-7, 3.09 ERA in 215+ IP.)
In a sign of the times, the two teams
who finished with the worst and second-worst records in the entire BDBL
in 2001 were predicted to finish #1 and #2 in the Higuera Division
standings in 2002. With their strong starting rotation,
league-best bullpen and vastly improved offense, Phoenix was predicted
to win the EL wild card in the BDBL's annual pre-season preview.
After getting off to a 33-21 (.611) start over
the first two chapters, Zook pulled off another blockbuster trade with
his division rival, Chris Luhning of the Kansas Law Dogs. In
exchange for Burrell, Marcus Giles, Barrett and Andy Ashby, the
Predators acquired sluggers Luis Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez along with
two others. Gonzalez hit .327/.427/.675 with 32 homers in just 105
games down the stretch, while Rodriguez hit .307/.342/.603 with 22
homers in 70 games. At the time of the trade, Gonzalez was hitting
.351/.478/.800, with a league-leading 21 homers and 54 RBIs.
Making the trade even more bizarre was the fact that the Law Dogs were
just four games out of first place at the end of two chapters (two games
ahead of Phoenix), and owned a
winning percentage of .648.
With all their new acquisitions, the
Predators went 15-11 in Chapter Three, while Kansas went just 10-16.
By the middle of July, Phoenix continued to cling to a slim lead in the EL wild card race, with the
Villanova Mustangs trailing by mere percentage points. And with
two chapters remaining, the two teams were tied.
The annual trading deadline came and went with Zook opting to stand pat.
Phoenix's fate would live or die with the roster at hand.
After a 10-6 start to Chapter Five, the
Predators jumped out to a two game lead over the Mustangs. Then,
on August 30th, Phoenix and Villanova faced each other head-to-head for
the final time. Villanova took the first game on a Jeff Kent
single. They then won the second game by a score of 15-4, despite
the presence of Zito on the mound for Phoenix. But the Predators
then shifted into high gear, and they closed out the series with
back-to-back wins to preserve the split and maintain their lead.
Phoenix closed out the fifth chapter
with an 18-8 record and continued to lead the Mustangs by two games in
the wild card race. But as the month of September rolled on, the
Mustangs collapsed under the pressure. They dropped five of six
games to start the chapter, while the Predators continued rolling at
10-2. As a result, Phoenix's lead in the division exploded to
eight games. And on October 18th, Zook officially clinched his
franchise's first appearance in the post-season.
Phoenix finished the season with a
record of 99-61 -- twelve games ahead of Villanova in the wild card
race. Their EL Division Series foes would be the New York Knights,
who wrapped up the season with a 100-60 record. The two teams were
evenly-matched, with similar win totals, and similar rankings in ERA and
The Division Series began with a 2-0
pitcher's duel between Garcia and Javier Vazquez. Garcia allowed
just five hits and two walks over seven innings, while Vazquez allowed
five hits and one walk over 7.2 innings. But four of Phoenix's
hits came in one inning, leading to two runs scored. And in the
end, that was enough for the 2-0 victory.
In Game Two, Zito was pounded early by
Scott Brosius and Jason Giambi, and the Predators trailed by a score of
6-0 heading into the ninth. They attempted to rally, and scored
four runs in the top of the ninth, but it wasn't enough. When the
series shifted to Phoenix in Game Three, the Knights continued to pile
up runs early and often against Predators pitching. Once again,
Phoenix mounted a ninth inning rally, and once again, it fell short, as
they lost by a score of 5-4.
With a two-games-to-one lead in the
series, the Knights turned to BDBL legend Robert Person to start Game
Four. And Person was hammered -- badly -- for a total of 13 runs
on 12 hits through five innings. In the end, Phoenix scored a
total of 20 runs on 20 hits to even the series. But proving once
again that there is no such thing as "momentum" in baseball, the Knights
scorched Pettitte for six runs in five innings in Game Five to win by a
score of 6-2.
Game Six was perhaps one of the
greatest pitcher's duels in BDBL playoffs history, with Zito and Matt Morris
locking horns. After three
scoreless innings, Luis Gonzalez singled with one out in the fourth. Nevin then followed with an RBI double. And that run would stand,
as Zito and the phenomenal Phoenix bullpen held the Knights to just
three hits, forcing a Game Seven.
With Garcia facing off against Kevin
Jarvis, Zook was confident his team would be advancing to the League
Championship Series against a seemingly-unstoppable Allentown Ridgebacks
team. And after the Predators scored five runs in the top of the
second inning, clubhouse attendants began opening cases of champagne for
the inevitable celebration. But the Knights refused to quit, and
began pecking away at that lead run by run. By the sixth inning,
New York had tied the game. And in the seventh, they went ahead.
Meanwhile, the Predators' offense completely shut down, as they
scattered five singles and a double over the final seven innings.
And in the end, New York emerged victorious, with a 7-5 win.
Throughout his BDBL career, Zook was an
outspoken member of the BDBL forum community. As a devout Kansas City
Royals fan, his favorite topic of discussion was the perceived disparity
in talent in Major League Baseball, caused by the absence of revenue
sharing or a salary cap. Zook participated in several debates
with BDBL Commissioner Mike Glander, including a series of discussions on
Glander's FTDOTC page and Zook's own page, entitled "Hot Corner." Just days after the end of this series,
Zook submitted his letter of resignation to the Commissioner's Office:
"I can't make up any excuses for
leaving, such as, 'I don't have enough time,' or 'it's just too
complicated.' I can't and won't be that lame. What I can
say is that I just don't have the passion for baseball that I once
I can also say that the most
enjoyable thing about the BDBL is the competition. But without
the love for the game, the competition is just not enough...
I just cannot remain a fan of a
sport that insists on mindless attacks on itself. It finally
wore me down over the past season, and I no longer wish to be a part
of it...I don't see how I could be a competitive and active owner
without being some sort of fan of the real game."
Five days later (November 21st), the
BDBL welcomed a 31-year-old biostatistical programmer from Houston, Texas,
to the league. His name: Greg Newgard. "I am looking for a
league with some kind of community," said Newgard upon his arrival, "and
it appears the BDBL has that...I'm really excited about this league."
Newgard dubbed his franchise the
"Houston Heatwave," and changed his team's ballpark model to
the hitter-friendly Ballpark at Arlington. He made his first big splash as a GM by doing
what his predecessor had done so many times before: negotiate a huge,
blockbuster trade with the Kansas Law Dogs. In exchange for both Abreu and Beltran, the Heatwave received J.D. Drew, Jermaine Dye and
John Ford-Griffin. The key to the deal for Newgard was getting an
extra year of production from Drew in exchange for Beltran, who would be
a free agent at the end of the season. Houston also freed $5
million in salary with this deal.
That was the one and only move made by
Newgard in his first winter as GM. He then headed into the
first-ever BDBL free agent auction with $33.5 million to spend on 17
players. He made a huge splash by signing five
players: Steve Karsay ($3.5M), Kirk Rueter ($6.5M), Jarrod Washburn
($12.5M), Marquis Grissom ($4M) and Jose Mesa ($3M.)
With Zito again heading a rotation that
included three strong left-handed starters, and most of the bullpen
returning, the Heatwave were picked to finish in third place in the
Higuera Division due to a weak lineup and heavy competition within the
division. Before Opening Day, Newgard agreed to his second trade
as GM, sending the newly-acquired Grissom to Marlboro in exchange for
reliever Eddie Guardado.
As the Heatwave got off to a slow
start (20-34 through the first two chapters), Newgard laid low, surveying the scene and looking for the right
trading opportunity. He found that opportunity at the Chapter Four
deadline, when the Salem Cowtippers -- desperate to keep their streak of
division titles intact -- agreed to trade promising young prospects
Casey Kotchman and Kris Honel (among others) to Houston in exchange for Zito
(and others.) With three years remaining on Zito's
contract, it was considered to be a bit of a risky move for Houston, but
Newgard was confident that Kotchman was a player he could
build his franchise around for years to come.
Unfortunately, it took a bit longer
than expected for Kotchman to develop into that player, as he struggled through various
injuries early in his career. However, Newgard didn't wait around
for Kotchman to develop, and
flipped him the following year for slugger Carlos Lee.
That same chapter, Newgard flipped Guardado, receiving Carlos Silva and prospect John VanBenschoten in
return. And at the final trading deadline of the season, Newgard
made one more trade, sending Eric Hinske to Kansas for Jose Lopez and
Dallas McPherson. Ever so gradually, the Heatwave farm system --
which had been ranked 18th in the BDBL's annual farm report in February -- was
stocked with highly-coveted young talent by the final trading deadline
of the season.
The Heatwave went 29-51 in the second
half of the season, and finished
exactly where they were predicted to finish: in third-place, with a
record of 62-98. As expected, run-scoring was a problem for
Houston, despite their new ballpark, as they scored just 717 runs -- 11th in the Eck League.
Newgard set out to correct that problem
in the winter of 2004. That winter, Newgard moved to California,
and with that move came another name change for the franchise. The
Houston Heatwave became the Silicon Valley CyberSox. But that
wasn't the only big change for the franchise, as they were also moving
from the Eck League over to an "all-California" division in the Ozzie
League, where they would contend against the Los Altos Undertakers, Bear
Country Jamboree and Sylmar Padawans.
Newgard's first move of the winter was
acquiring second baseman Orlando Hudson in exchange for utility man
Keith Ginter and prospect John Patterson. Hudson hit just
.270/.325/.394 for the CyberSox, but contributed greatly on defense.
Newgard then made the bold decision to swap Kotchman for Lee. The
move paid off in the short term, as Lee hit .300/.345/.512, with 30
doubles, 30 home runs and 101 RBIs.
Also that winter, Drew was traded
in exchange for Larry Walker (among others.) After being saddled
with several expensive "Type H" free agents in the 2003 auction, Newgard
laid low in the 2004 auction, signing just one player: closer Keith
Foulke at $6 million.
Despite the revamped lineup, the
CyberSox were picked to finish in last place in the Griffin Division,
thanks to a pitching staff that was led by (a now highly-overpaid)
Washburn, along with retreads Jeriome Robertson, Freddy Garcia, Ron
Villone and Reuter. It didn't take long before that prediction
began to take the shape of reality. After six weeks of play, the
CyberSox owned the worst record in the league at 8-20. And it
didn't take long for Newgard to toss in the towel and start looking
toward the future.
On March 12th, Stamford Zoots GM Paul
Marazita announced that he had just acquired both Walker and
Greg Myers (a left-handed power-hitting catcher with strong splits) from
the CyberSox in exchange for prospects Hee Seop Choi and Ben Petrick.
While the pundits screamed foul, Newgard remained cool:
"Landing someone like Choi, who
is in his option year, is a nice pickup for me," Newgard declared.
"Getting a 25-year-old guaranteed starter for next year is a
Unfortunately for Newgard, Choi never
quite panned out as a ballplayer. He hit just .218/.327/.437 in
499 at-bats over three BDBL seasons before calling it a career. Meanwhile, with Walker and Myers gone,
the CyberSox cupboard was bare in terms of trade bait. The
following chapter, Newgard jettisoned a couple of arms in Washburn and
Reuter, acquiring prospects in exchange. But again, none of those
prospects panned out.
The following chapter, Villone was
dealt to Salem in exchange for young hurler Ryan Drese. This time,
the prospect did pan out, as Drese went 20-6 with a 3.06 ERA in 220+
innings the very next season. Newgard made two other minor trades
that chapter, but his biggest acquisition was acquiring college closer
Huston Street as a farm free agent. Street soon became the
foundation of the CyberSox bullpen for several years to come.
Silicon Valley closed out the year with
a dismal record of 61-99, and Newgard was determined to turn that
around quickly. A number of factors contributed to his optimism
that his team would be much improved in 2005. First was the
emergence of Drese, who made an enormous contribution at a salary of
only $500,000. Next was the development of Silva, who gave the team 210+
solid innings (4.14 ERA) at a salary of only $1.1 million. Foulke (6-8,
2.84 ERA, 36 SVs) and Trevor Hoffman (2.88 ERA in 59+ IP) returned to
the bullpen, and Lee (.266/.342/.464, with 30 HR and 107 RBI) returned
to the lineup.
Finally, Newgard was also hopeful that
by changing his ballpark model from Texas' Ballpark at Arlington to Dodger
Stadium, his longstanding difficulty with finding quality pitching would be
a thing of the past. The CyberSox also had a ton of salary to play
with. With Washburn's cap-choking salary now off the books, and
with so many low-cost contributors at hand, Silicon Valley went into the
auction with more than $38 million in spending money (more than all but
one team.) Rather than spread around all that cash, Newgard made
the bold decision to take the "stars-and-scrubs" approach by signing two
players to enormous salaries.
First, he signed Adrian Beltre -- the
third-best free agent available -- to a whopping $15.5 million salary.
This decision was considered especially risky, given that Beltre was
coming off a career year out of character with his recent performance.
Next, he signed ace Chris Carpenter to a $9 million salary. This,
too, was considered a risky signing, as Carpenter had experienced
extensive nerve damage during the 2004 MLB season, and his status going
forward was questionable.
Beltre was every bit as good as
advertised, as he hit .310/.378/.545 on the season, with 37 home runs
and 103 RBIs. He would finish sixth in the OL MVP balloting.
Carpenter went 15-7 with a 3.35 ERA in 198+ innings. Not only was
he an asset to Silicon Valley in 2005, but he also enjoyed a career year
at the MLB level, and proved to be a bargain signing.
Just one year after losing 99 games,
Silicon Valley was predicted to finish in first place in their division.
Oddly enough, their top rivals would be the team that had finished
behind them in the standings in 2004 with 100 losses: the Sylmar Padawans.
In their very first head-to-head battle
during the first week of February, both Silicon Valley and Sylmar
entered the series with identical 6-6 records. But the Padawans
emerged with a shocking four game sweep, capped by a 2-0 shutout where
mediocre Sylmar starter Zach Day tossed six innings of one-hit ball.
That series put Sylmar in the division lead, while Silicon Valley fell
into last place.
The very next day, however, things
began to look up in the valley, as Nate Robertson began the sixth
pitcher in BDBL history to pitch a no-hitter. Better yet,
Robertson's win was one of four for the CyberSox, as they swept the
Jamboree. And that series put Silicon Valley into a virtual tie
In Chapter Two, Silicon Valley and
Sylmar went at it again, with Sylmar owning a one-game lead heading into
the series. In the first game, a three-run blast by Lee gave the
CyberSox a 4-1 win behind the pitching of Drese. The second game
was a pitcher's duel between Carpenter and A.J. Burnett, with Burnett
winning the duel by a score of 2-1. Mark Buehrle (who was just
acquired by Sylmar at the end of the first chapter) was pounded by three
CyberSox homers in the third game, resulting in an 8-3 win for Silicon
Valley. And in Game Four, Sylmar salvaged a split by returning the
favor with an 8-3 win of their own.
Newgard attempted to answer Sylmar's
acquisition of Buehrle by acquiring a lefty ace of his own in Odalis
Perez. But Perez would be a major disappointment, going 8-9 with a
4.61 ERA in 130+ innings down the stretch. Making matters worse,
Perez cost the franchise young hurler Noah Lowry, who eventually became
a low-cost ace for the Corona Confederates.
At the all-star break, the CyberSox
once again captured a share of first place despite a dismal 12-12 record
in Chapter Three. Fortunately for them, the Padawans' record of
10-14 was even more dismal, and they closed out the chapter by losing 13
of their final 16 games.
After falling behind once again at the
start of Chapter Four, Silicon Valley once again edged into a tie for
first in the middle of July, despite the fact that they went just 11-13
on the chapter and 23-25 since the start of Chapter Three. While
the CyberSox struggled, the Padawans struggled even greater, with a 9-11
record on the chapter, and 19-25 since Chapter Three. Chapter Four
came to a close with Sylmar once again leading the division by one game.
In Chapter Five, the CyberSox jumped
out of the gate with a 7-1 record, while the Padawans kept pace at 6-2.
After two dismal chapters where it appeared that neither team wanted to
win the division, both teams stepped up big-time in Chapter Five.
Silicon Valley won 18 out of 20 games at one point, and began the fifth
chapter with a 14-2 record. And Sylmar owned a record of 12-4 to
start the chapter, and fell behind in the division by one game.
But once again, Silicon Valley's division lead was
short-lived, as less than a week later, Sylmar recaptured a share of
first by finishing with a 19-9 record on the chapter. The CyberSox
also enjoyed their best chapter of the season with a league-best record
While the Griffin Division race
continued to be the focus of great excitement and attention throughout
the season, another great race was developing in the OL wild card.
On September 27th, the New Hope Badgers pulled into a three-way tie for
first in the wild card race, along with the CyberSox and Padawans.
All of a sudden, the Griffin Division race became even more important,
as the loser would possibly sit out the post-season.
The Badgers wrapped up their remarkable
season on October 12th, finishing with a record of 89-71. At that
time, they were still tied for first place in the wild card race with
Silicon Valley (81-63) and Sylmar (85-67) having games remaining on
their schedules. The post-season fates of all three teams rested
upon the final two weeks of the season.
Sylmar swept the Bear Country Jamboree
later that night, giving them sole possession of first place once again.
With just one series remaining (against the CyberSox), Sylmar sat two
full games ahead in the division. On October 19th, Silicon Valley
made their task even more difficult by losing three of four to the Los
Altos Undertakers, dropping them three games behind in the division, and
one game behind in the wild card race. The CyberSox needed eight
wins in their final twelve games to ensure a spot in the playoffs.
Four days later, they took three of
four from Bear Country, and then swept the New Milford Blazers in their
following series to edge back into a tie for first place in the
division. That set the stage for the final series of the season.
Appropriately enough, it would be against the Padawans.
In that series, both teams needed one
win to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Thanks to Sylmar's edge in
their head-to-head record, the CyberSox needed three wins
to clinch the division, while a four-game sweep by either team would
force a one-game playoff for the wild card. But that notion was
put to rest early, as the two teams split the first two games of the
series. Sylmar then earned a split in the final game of the series
to clinch their first division title.
After 160 games, Sylmar and Silicon
Valley finished with identical records of 91-69. And after a full
season of bloody head-to-head battles, it seemed only appropriate that
the two teams would face each other in the OL Division Series.
After Sylmar ace Roy Halladay out-pitched Silicon Valley ace Chris
Carpenter in Game One, the Padawans scored a run in the bottom of the
ninth (a pinch hit home run by Bobby Crosby) in Game Two to force extra
innings. Sylmar's Lyle Overbay then drove home the game-winning
run with one out in the bottom of the 11th to give Sylmar a
two-games-to-none lead in the series.
The series shifted to Silicon Valley,
and Carlos Silva took the hill for the home team. He pitched
brilliantly, allowing only four hits and no walks through seven innings,
as the CyberSox won by a score of 2-0. Then, in Game Four,
Carpenter took the mound on only three days rest, and tossed seven
shutout innings to even the series at two games apiece.
The Padawans jumped out to a 4-0 lead
in the first inning of Game Five, but Silicon Valley answered with three
runs in the bottom half of the inning, and eventually tied the game at
8-8 after nine innings. Once again, the game went into extra
innings, and this time the CyberSox ended up on top, as pinch hitter Lou
Merloni hit a walk-off, two-run homer off Bobby Madritsch to take the
But when the series shifted back to
Sylmar, so did the momentum, and Sylmar won Game Six by a convincing
score of 7-1. So, after 166 games, the Padawans and CyberSox once
again found themselves with identical records, with only one game
remaining to decide who would advance to the next round, and who would
end their season. With Carpenter pitching on three days' rest once
again, the Pads jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, and then added
another in the second. Silicon Valley slugger Kevin Mench then
clubbed a three-run homer in the fourth to tie the game.
The score remained 3-3 heading into the
eighth. With Carpenter done after 85 pitches, the game was handed
over to the CyberSox bullpen. Kent Mercker then took the hill to
face the heart of the Sylmar lineup in the eighth. With two outs
and two runners on, Newgard turned to his closer, Hoffman. And the
first batter Hoffman faced, Juan Uribe, singled home the go-ahead run.
Sylmar's dominant closer, Francisco
Rodriguez, then recorded the first two outs of the ninth before handing
the baton to lefty specialist Orber Moreno. Two batters later,
Silicon Valley's season ended when pinch hitter Brady Clark popped out
to the shortstop to end both the game and the Silicon Valley season.
After that heartbreaking loss, Newgard
turned his attention toward the 2006 season. Although his team was
returning most of its core players, Beltre had suffered through a
tremendously disappointing year, and was now a $15.5 million burden.
And Foulke and Drese had disappointing MLB seasons as well. With so much
money allocated to Beltre, Newgard needed to free up some salary prior
to the free agent signing period. He found an easy mark in New
Milford GM Anthony Peburn.
Peburn, who was determined to make the
playoffs at any cost to his franchise's future, agreed to trade young hurler Dan Haren to
the CyberSox in exchange for Chris Carpenter. Although this
represented a downgrade in the rotation for Silicon Valley, Haren was a very capable #3
starter at the time, and the move saved the CyberSox a whopping $8.9
million. Not only was this trade beneficial to the 2006 CyberSox,
but at age 25, Haren was on the verge of becoming an annual Cy Young
candidate for several years to come. For the '06 CyberSox, Haren tossed 230 innings, allowing just 216
hits and 61 walks, with 173 strikeouts, 14 wins and a 3.56 ERA. At
the end of the season, he would be rewarded with a six-year contract.
Despite that trade, Newgard still had
very little money to work with that winter. He signed just one
free agent in the auction -- lefty reliever Aaron Fultz at $5.5 million
-- and then spent another $8.8 million on veteran free agents in the
The BDBL press was unimpressed.
Citing a weak lineup and starting rotation, the CyberSox were picked to
finish in last place in the Griffin Division in 2006. A new
feature on the BDBL web site called "Power Rankings" was just as
pessimistic about the CyberSox's chances:
"This is another case where our
numbers may be lying to us. This team has the worst offense in the
league, in a park that will depress those numbers even more. The
pitching staff will be helped, but the CyberSox will lose tons of
2-1 and 1-0 games. No way they can think about .500."
Despite the dire predictions,
Silicon Valley ended the first chapter the same way they had ended the
2006 season: in a tie for first place with the Padawans. The
following chapter, the CySox continued to prove the critics wrong,
posting a division-best 15-13 record. And by the all-star break,
Silicon Valley had built an impressive nine-game lead in the division,
with a record of 47-33.
The surprising performance of the
CyberSox was one of the biggest stories of the year:
I think the assumption is that
the Padawans have just gotten off to a bad start, while the CyberSox
are bound to fall back to earth at some point. So far, Newgard has
not made any bold moves to sacrifice any future value to help this
year's squad. And Sylmar GM John Duel has been eerily quiet as
well. But maybe things won't change. Maybe Silicon Valley's
pitching staff will continue to thrive in their Dodger Stadium
model, and maybe Sylmar will continue to flounder around the .500
mark. Maybe all the pre-season prognosticators were wrong. Maybe
2006 is the CyberSox's year.
With his team now in an unexpected
position, Newgard began working the phones, looking for a way to improve
his team without giving up too much of his future. Role players
Eddie Guardado, David Wells and Mark Ellis were added at the halfway
point of the season in exchange for Gary Matthews and prospect David
Purcey. But that would be the end of the trading for Newgard, as
he chose to stand pat and ride out the rest of the season.
In Chapter Four, the wheels came off
the Silicon Valley bandwagon, as they went just 8-16. They bounced
back to go 14-14 the following chapter, but the Padawans finally began
to heat up at the same time, going 16-12 to pull within three games of
the division lead. By the first week of October, that lead was
down to just one game. Then, during the final week of the season,
Sylmar pulled ahead, leaving the CyberSox one game behind in the
division (tied with the surprising Los Altos Undertakers), and out of
the playoffs picture.
In that final chapter of the season,
the Padawans went just 15-13, yet in the end, that was good enough to
win the division. The reason is that the CyberSox went just 11-17
in Chapter Six, and a division-worst 33-47 (.412) in the second half.
Despite having virtually identical rosters in both halves of the season,
the CyberSox played completely different brands of baseball in the first
and second halves. They finished the 2006 season with a record of
80-80, tied with the Undertakers for second-place, just one game out of
For Newgard, the bad news was that he
just barely missed the playoffs. The good news was that he now
owned the #4 pick in the 2007 draft, thanks to a recently-adopted rule
change. That year, Newgard moved back to Texas. And with
that move came yet another new name for his franchise (the third new
name in Newgard's five seasons as owner): the San Antonio Broncs.
With a bit more financial flexibility
than he'd had the prior year, Newgard spread his money around in the
auction, landing two relievers (J.J. Putz and Hoffman), an inning-eating
starter (Tom Glavine) and re-signing Beltre to a much more reasonable
$5 million salary. But after spending all that cash in the
auction, there was little money remaining to take advantage of that #4
draft pick. As a result, Newgard didn't make a selection until
Prior to the free agent signing period,
Newgard was active on the trading market, making a total of five trades
involving 18 players. Among his acquisitions were Austin Kearns
and Adam Dunn -- two young power-hitters Newgard felt were tailor-made
for his Dodger Stadium-modeled ballpark.
Once again, the Broncs were picked to
finish in last place, and once again, they set out to prove the pundits
wrong by going 16-12 in Chapter One. But in Chapter Two, they went
just 12-16, and they followed that with a 10-14 Chapter Three. At
the all-star break, they trailed the first-place Undertakers by nine
With that, Newgard began to unfurl the
white flag. He made his first white-flag trade at the break,
trading Putz to the Ravenswood Infidels in exchange for cheap reliever
Casey Janssen and two others. He then opened the flood gates at
the final deadline, trading several impact players, including Brian
Roberts, Hoffman and Beltre. And in exchange, he received Jimmy
Rollins, Scott Rolen and Conor Jackson among others. The Rollins
acquisition, in particular, would prove to be a great one, as he would eventually win the NL MVP in 2007, and
figured to play a major role on
the 2008 Broncs ballclub.
The Broncs went 40-40 in the second
half, but couldn't keep pace with the Undertakers, who eventually won
the division by 21 games. San Antonio wrapped up the
season with a record of 78-82, tied for second place.
Heading into the 2008 season, there was
plenty of reasons for optimism in San Antonio. Haren (244+ IP, 227
H, 60 BB, 212 K, 2.99 ERA) fronted the rotation once again, at a bargain
salary of just $1.6 million. Rollins was coming off an MLB MVP
season in which he'd hit .296/.344/.531 with 30 homers, 88 extra base
hits and 41 steals in 47 attempts. And Kearns and Dunn returned to
the lineup as well, promising to contribute great power numbers in the
middle of the lineup.
For the third time in Newgard's tenure
as owner, a new ballpark model was adopted that winter, as the franchise
moved from Dodger Stadium to Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. The
most drastic change was the difference in home run factors for
right-handed hitters, which fell from an average of 107.3 in Dodger
Stadium to just 76 in Oakland.
Newgard made six trades that winter,
adding another big bat in Casey Blake, offloading Scott Rolen's
contract, and adding another cheap, durable arm in Jeremy Guthrie (3.46
ERA in 190+ IP at just $500,000 in salary.) Then, in the auction,
Newgard made a big splash by signing ace John Lackey (3.99 ERA in 246+
IP, 203 K's) to a $17 million contract that guaranteed he would be
signed through the 2010 season, as per a new "Type H" rule passed by the
league the previous September.
With a starting rotation fronted by
Haren, Lackey and Guthrie, and a lineup fueled by the presence of
Rollins, the Broncs were picked to win the Griffin Division in the 2008
Season Preview. That prediction looked prescient when the Broncs
leapt out to a 17-11 start to the season, despite hitting just
.227/.305/.360 as a team. In particular, Rollins' performance in
Chapter One (.186/.228/.310) was shockingly poor.
Although the team's hitting improved in
Chapter Two (.247/.314/.407), the team scored just 90 runs in the second
chapter (the lowest runs total in the OL), and as a result the Broncs
fell to 9-19 on the chapter, and 26-30 (third-place) overall.
This, despite the fact that San Antonio's #4 starter, Orlando Hernandez,
became the second pitcher in franchise history to throw a no-hitter.
Determined to get back in the race,
Newgard traded young catcher Ryan Doumit to the Great Lakes Sphinx at
the Chapter Three deadline, getting Eric Byrnes and Miguel Montero in
return. Byrnes hit just .263/.307/.447 in 190 at-bats down the
stretch, proving to be just another underperforming hitter in the San
Incredibly, the Broncs continued to
struggle in Chapter Three, going just 9-15. That gave the team an
overall record of 35-45 -- six games behind the division-leading
Jamboree. With his team struggling in last place thanks to a BDBL-low
288 runs scored, Newgard placed several players on the block at the
Chapter Four deadline. Matt Guerrier, a reliever Newgard had
signed for $4 million in the auction, was sent to the Cowtippers in
exchange for several prospects. On the heels of his no-hitter,
Hernandez was sent packing to Southern California, with two more
prospects going to San Antonio. And free-agent-to-be Casey Janssen
was sent to Allentown for another prospect.
At the following deadline, Byrnes was
flipped to Bear Country in exchange for reliever Cory Wade. Then,
after several chapters of searching for a buyer, Newgard traded Rollins
to the St. Louis Apostles in exchange for Andrew Miller and several
The Broncs went just 30-50 over the
second half, proving their first-half performance was no fluke.
They finished the season in last place, with a record of 65-95, and just
565 runs scored. That runs total set a new BDBL record for fewest
runs scored in a single season, breaking the old record of 577 runs set
by the 2002 Manchester Irish Rebels (who intentionally fielded a lineup
filled with excellent fielders with weak bats.)
Just by looking at the chart above, you
can see that the Broncs franchise has spent more time below that 80-win
line than above it. However, a more insightful chart appears
below, which goes a long way toward explaining the top chart:
The blue lines represent where the
Broncs ranked in their league (OL or EL) in terms of runs scored.
The maroon lines represent their rank by runs allowed. The longer
the line, the worse the ranking. As you can see, the Broncs
franchise has always had problems scoring runs, with the exception of
the 2002 season -- which just happens to be this franchise's best
Even in 2005 and 2006, when the Broncs
narrowly missed winning two division titles, they ranked just 7th and
12th in the Ozzie Leagues in runs scored. It was their pitching
and defense (ranked #1 both years) that carried them.
For the most part, this franchise has
suffered offensively due to an inability to reach base. The San
Antonio offense owns a career OBP of just .334, which ranks 20th among
all BDBL franchises, and is 13 points below the league average. In
ten years, only four hitters from this franchise have posted a .400+ OBP
(in 400+ PA's) in any single season -- and all four played during the
Phoenix Predators era. In the Newgard Era, only three
hitters have ever posted a .380 or better OBP (Ben Broussard and
Milton Bradley in 2005, and Eric Hinske in 2003.) Quite simply,
it's tough to score a run without reaching base first.
One of the reasons San Antonio has had
so much difficulty with hitting is that the Broncs farm has yet to
produce a single impact hitter. In the franchise's first decade,
the most significant hitters produced by the farm were Brian Daubach,
Eric Hinske, Adam Kennedy, Marcus Giles and Chris Singleton -- all but
Hinske were selected in the 1999 inaugural farm draft. Of course,
Newgard made great progress toward solving this problem during the 2008
farm draft, when he selected Chris Davis, Max Ramirez and Mat Gamel with
three of his four picks (two of which have since been traded.)
For the most part, Newgard's attempts
to acquire impact hitters via trade have fallen flat:
In 2003, Newgard swapped two major
impact hitters (Beltran and Abreu) for two others (Drew and Dye),
saving $5 million and adding an extra year of service from Drew.
Dye provided decent power numbers in 2003, but posted an OPS of just
.357. Drew hit just .226/.324/.415 that season, and his extra
year was traded away in exchange for Larry Walker (who cost $5
million more than Drew), who was then traded for Hee Seop Choi after
just 95 at-bats.
In the summer of '03, Newgard
traded for another slugging young first baseman, Kotchman. He,
too, was traded in exchange for a slugging outfielder (Carlos Lee)
the following year. But like Dye, Lee posted pedestrian
on-base numbers (.345 in 2004, .342 in 2005, .308 in 2006) despite
impressive power numbers.
Also in 2003, Newgard acquired
Dallas MacPherson and Jose Lopez in trade -- two prospects known
more for their prodigious power than their ability to reach base.
In 2007, Newgard acquired another
young slugger in Austin Kearns, whose inability to reach base
ultimately cost the franchise inexpensive starting pitcher Jeremy
Also that season, Newgard acquired
Jimmy Rollins, who was supposed to be the franchise's savior in
2008. Yet, even if Rollins had performed as well in the BDBL
as he did in the previous MLB season, his OBP was just .344.
Finally, Newgard's top free agent
signings have also fallen flat in terms of reaching base. Most
notably, the biggest free agent hitter ever signed by Newgard, Adrian
Beltre, enjoyed an excellent season in 2005 (.310/.378/.545), and
carried the team into the playoffs. Yet he proved to be a one-year
wonder, and hit just .252/.315/.406 the following season at $15.5
million in salary.
For the most part, Newgard has shied
away from paying big money for hitting, as only one hitter (Larry
Walker) aside from Beltre has earned more than $10 million in any one
season as a member of the Heatwave, CyberSox or Broncs. And of the
other six hitters that have occupied a spot on the active roster with a
salary of $7 million or more, only one of those hitters (Abreu) posted
an OBP higher than .361.
Pitching has always carried this
franchise, even dating back as far as the Scot Zook Era. However,
until this team can add some hitting -- particularly hitters who can get
on base -- the wheels on this bandwagon are likely to continue spinning.